Why Big Fat Sam get my Big Fat Thumbs-Up at Crystal Palace

Written by Ben Wilson

Here's Ben Wilson on the likely appointment of former Bolton boss Allardyce and why he's ok with it

Here are some names I’d prefer to Sam Allardyce as the next Crystal Palace manager:

Sean Dyche (organised, disciplined, multiple years of inspiring Championship-calibre players to overperform). Gary Rowett (huge prospect, did an exceptional job at Birmingham with a chocolate-coin budget). Tony Popovic (has the Palace link some lunatics insist upon, can pull a back four together, lots of potential). Eddie Howe (disastrous at Burnley but has bought well and twice moulded Bournemouth into an exciting, attacking top-tier side).

Allardyce? I don’t like the man, and I find his style of football epitomises his personality even more than Tony Pulis’: dour, direct, gruff, unapologetic. But if it’s to be him, then the upside is that three of those four ‘qualities’ (Damo’s thunderous left peg has the ‘direct’ element well covered) are ones we’ve lacked throughout this season, and at key moments in key games under Pardew. You think, having gone a goal ahead in a cup final, Wayne Rooney would have been allowed to jive bunny his way through an Allardyce midfield? Nope. Cannoned into the royal box by the first player within range is how that run would (should!) have ended.

Sam is not a likeable man. But management isn’t a beauty pageant or personality contest, and there are suggestions – which for legal reasons must remain as speculation – that Super Al is no angel. Sir Alex Ferguson had a legendary temper, and was feared by at least 90 per cent of the players who worked under him, but channelled that nervous energy into the greatest trophy count of any British manager. Allardyce isn’t old red nose, but if him booting this bunch of players up the jacksie keeps Palace up this season, then re-establishes us in the top half next, his appointment can be considered a successful one.

And while he’s painted as a bloke teams of grown men cower at, his stylings have improved numerous individuals across his career. In the same vein as Dyche, he made names such as Kevin Davies and Michael Ricketts look so effective at Bolton they earned England caps. At the Reebok, and then again at West Ham, one-paced, zero-trick midfielder Kevin Nolan smashed in important goals from all over park. And in his most recent spell at Sunderland, Jordan Pickford emerged from nowhere to look like a future England stopper, Jermain Defoe returned to relevance at 32, and Patrick van Aanholt developed into one of the Premier League’s best all-round left-backs.

For all our love for Pards – most Palace fans I know still like him as a man, if not a manager – he’s never come close to conjuring similar magic with a much more talented set of individuals. Wilf Zaha has matured under his tutelage, sure, and Christian Benteke is Christian flippin’ Benteke, but if anything much of our ‘talent’ regressed during AP’s reign. We transformed one of the best keepers in the world (no, not Henno) into a jittery, flap-prone wreck, Cabaye has often performed as if paid in francs rather than pounds, and as for the flop four of Sako, Mutch, Kelly, and Campbell: if Sam can get even one of those playing vaguely like a professional sportsman it’ll save us millions in Jan.

Another concern raised is Sam’s prospective relationship with Parish. Many worry that the pair won’t get on – but I’d argue that it’s a good thing if they don’t, at least to the extent of holidaying in foreign climes with one another. No one at the club should do their job without some degree of accountability, and just as it’s Parish’s right to question tactics and substitutions, so Allardyce must be able to answer back regarding transfer targets and budget plans. Sycophancy rarely equals long-term success. Indeed, many would argue that unchallenged loyalty to those who bleed red-and-blue – Pardew, Salako, Bright, Millen – is precisely what has held us back from reaching that forever undefined ‘next level’.

I’ve not yet touched upon Allardyce’s record as a boss in terms of stats and achievements, because that much speaks for itself: establishing Bolton as a Premier League club, then taking them into Europe; getting West Ham promoted, and then stabilising their top flight status; de-Advocaating Sunderland to ease them away from the bottom three, with multiple clean sheets (remember them?) and a team who looked like way more than the sum of its parts (remember that)?.

Newcastle and Blackburn were blips, and his England exit an embarrassment, but the latter should give Allardyce a whole new impetus to prove everyone wrong. And for the club which has committed its entire existence to proving everyone wrong, beauty* and the beast might just prove a match made in footballing heaven.

*I’m referring to Zaha here. Sorry, Steve.

What do you think about Big Sam being Palace boss? Comment below.


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